“Is PR really necessary? I just want to make games…” Well, if this is your mindset, you will definitely make one of the following common PR mistakes. During my work as a game journalist, I have seen lots of press releases, spook many developers, and saw a lot of developers struggling with these common PR mistakes which can be easily tackled. I am no marketing expert, but these are mistakes I have seen a little to much while previewing, reviewing, and checking out indie games from developers worldwide.
5. Spelling and grammatical errors
Unfortunately, I see it happen too often on websites, Kickstarter pages, and press releases from various indie game developers. I notice it especially in projects of people whose first language is not English. The entire paragraphs are full of grammatical errors. That shortfall results in misspelled names, spelling and grammatical errors, and erroneous facts. Not only are they very distracting, but they are also very sloppy. Too bad, because it can be easily prevented. Especially if you take this effective tip for granted.
I am not a native English speaker myself. That is why I regularly make mistakes while writing English texts. (As someone from the Netherlands, my Dutch texts aren’t flawless neither, but that is a different story) Still, I try to mask as many mistakes as possible by using a tool. I use Grammarly for that. This is a free tool that checks all texts in your browser. That way, typos, and grammatical errors are spotted faster. This tool removes a lot of errors, which makes texts a bit more manageable. The program does not work flawlessly, but it does help you prevent some of the biggest PR mistakes I have seen lately.
4. PR mistake: no gameplay in the lead
You want to express how cool the story is, how cool the mechanics are, or how much time you have spent improving a certain function. All very cool and definitely something you have to do! However, pieces of text are of little use if you cannot provide them with illustrations. I regularly see messages that do not appeal to the imagination. Or they do show the things that appeal to gamers imaginations way to late (like showing gameplay only after 10 seconds of the trailer). Therefore people who could have played or helped to promote your game, lost interest already. You did not make them clear what’s your game mainly about.
Why not? Because there is no gameplay reference! Sometimes it is simply not possible to show gameplay, but in that case, it already helps to show artwork or concept art. It is even more perfect if you have a trailer or demo. This PR mistake is not only made by indies, by the way. AAA developers often fall for it by showing trailers full of not even in-game used cinematics. Nice and all, but it says little about the game. At least show something illustrative first that gives a good idea of what the final game will offer.
3. Starting with PR late
Does this mean you have to wait until you have loads of gameplay? Absolutely not! If you don’t have gameplay, you don’t have gameplay yet. You are not going to conjure it out of a magic hat. But try to have it as soon as possible because a game stands or falls on it. When the gameplay sucks, the game sucks. Once you have a bit of gameplay that is representative, you should already be able to start with PR. Let others play the alpha build in a limited company of Indie gamers (who never played the game before). It will not only help you improve the game, but also helps you build a community.
When the gameplay works, many still wait until the artwork is also in order. After all, the eye also wants something. There is some truth to this somewhere, but if you keep looking for things that need to be improved first, you will always get to late to the moment when you first introduce your child to the outside world. Find a good balance. Some indie game developers only start when the game is out or when it is finished and they are looking for a publisher. A little late to promote your indie game, isn’t it?
2. Misapproach media
Have you ever heard about a journalist starving for stories? I haven’t. As a journalist myself I know there are always things waiting in my inbox. There are always editorial calendars. Just another reason to reach out to journalists as soon as possible in your PR process. Tell them about the game your working on, and give them a good impression when the game comes out. Let this be far in the future so that there is enough time to reserve a place for your indie game on the journalist’s agenda.
Also, pay close attention to who you approach. Not every journalist or media outlet is suitable for your message. It is a waste of time and effort to massively access all gaming related websites. Many websites will not have time for you because their agenda is full of AAA titles. One of the reasons I started Indie Game Reporter is because as an indie enthusiast journalist, I couldn’t pick up requests from indie game developers often enough because there were other things on most news outlet’s agendas.
1. Only focussing on self promotion
Last but not least: promoting a game is not about promoting a game. That sounds contradictory, but it actually makes sense if you think about it a bit longer. Compare it to a not game developing related situation. Let’s say you get a visit from someone who just comes by to talk about their concerns. You have your own problems, but you have to put them aside for someone else. There is no room to tell your side of the story. You are probably getting tired of that one-sided conversation. You will stop listening soon, to what the other person has to say. Nobody wants to be overloaded with only someone else’s agenda items!
PR is not only about what you have to offer, but also about how you can help others. Collaborate with other game developers. Share their work even if they don’t share your work. Do you see a cool Kickstarter from a colleague? Share it if your audience would like it! The other developer will be very grateful and may even help you pursue your goals. It comes across as much more social than just bombarding your followers with your own promotional goals. And if they don’t? Helping others certainly won’t hurt you.
Learn from this PR mistakes
Hopefully, you don’t make these PR mistakes. If you did, learn from your mistakes. if you are now working on the PR of your game… Indie Game Reporter gives you the opportunity to submit your game or submit game news. By submitting information you will get a bigger chance of getting coverage.